I have the very best job in the world.
No really, I do.
I get paid to do what I love, and not only that, but my job sends me to saddle fit seminars, Parelli events, and hoof clinics - to name a few. This month, through my job, I got to do something kinda special, my colleague Linda and I were able to go to Montana to help with a rescue situation.
A large animal sanctuary in Montana lost their funding last year and the hundreds of animals in residence there have had to find places elsewhere. They had over a hundred horses and most of them have already found homes, but there were about 15 still left that had been dubbed "the wild bunch" that needed some extra help. Our boss sent Linda and me to see if we could handle these horses and get them able to be caught, trailered, examined by a vet and have their feet trimmed. We had one week to get 15 wild horses tamed.
We contacted the Parelli Foundation - the charitable branch of the Parelli organization - and asked them if they could give us some help. They not only offered to send equipment, but they put us in touch with two of their licensed instructors who lived within about 4 miles of where the horses were being kept ~ Ethan Zimmerman and Lorri Roy. These instructors - husband and wife - offered to put us up in their lovely home and we ended up making some great new friends. Not only did Lorri and Ethan house us and feed us really well, but they helped us with the horses quite a bit the week that we were there.
This wild bunch was living in a big pasture together in a foster facility in Hamilton. The ladies who were taking care of all the horses had been going out to their pasture everyday with a pink bucket full of grain and "chumming" them. Most of the wild bunch wouldn't come up to the pink bucket, but several would, so we started with those.
This cute little Arab mare on the right was pretty friendly and right away I was able to get my string around her neck. There was one other mare who catchable in the pasture, but the rest - - not so much. We ended up bringing them all out of the pasture and into some smaller pens where we would have a chance of catching them.
Once we had them in the pens, we were able to separate them. About half of the horses eventually let us ease up to them and catch them, but the other half were absolutely wild and we had to throw a loop over their heads and teach them to lead with a rope around their necks before we could halter them.
Ethan and the mare he played with on the first day - she got right in the horse trailer the first time we asked her to.
Lorri with the big mare she played with all week. This mare was NOT going to let a human touch her when we started. By the end of the week we could catch her easily, pick up her feet and she climbed in the trailer without even being asked. (In this photo, Lorri and the mare are demonstrating the mare's new "drop my head" skill.)
This sorrel mare in the foreground on the right was my proudest accomplishment. She was a pretty calm horse, but was bound and determined that no on would EVER touch her face. She wouldn't look at us, wouldn't sniff our hands and definitely wouldn't let us put a halter on her. I spent a while teaching her to love horse cookies by putting them in the end of my stick. Pretty soon she would take them out of my hand and soon after that I was able to halter her and politely touch her face. I was pretty excited.
This cute little guy was a pony/Norwegian Fjord cross who was probably born at the sanctuary and never handled. He was pretty dang wild. Linda spent a lot of time with him and made a lot of progress. He's a very cool horse and will have to problem getting a home.
(He and Linda are the same color.)
Here are few more of our formerly feral horses:
(My big palomino gelding that came a really long way in a week, too.)
This is another mare who'd never been able to be haltered before we got there. This is Sharlee, a gal who's been taking care of these horses, demonstrating the way that all horses should OFFER to be haltered.
I'm also thankful for new friends and good people all over this world who are trying to make a difference and be good stewards to all of God's creatures.